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Poking through the files

I'm in the process of putting together a TiddlyWiki of my spacegoing trade league, the Teklénan, and came across the following. Which I suppose could be found in that universe, though I suspect the discerning reader will figure out whence I got the idea... :)

THE BIG RED ROCKEATER


A particularly interesting specimen of vacuum living fauna is Megalithophagos rufus, commonly known as the Big Red Rockeater. This creature is usually found within large asteroid clusters or the ring systems of jovian worlds, but has been known to occur in particularly dense nebulae as well. The name itself is something of a misnomer; as M. rufus takes its color from the rock it eats, it is most frequently black, grey, or brown in color.

M. rufus begins life as a tubular spat measuring between 30 to 60 mm in width, and 300-600 mm in length. These are emitted by the parent in swarms of hundreds of thousands of individuals, and drift through space feeding on whatever small particles they may encounter. This phase continues for a long time, during which the spat are vulnerable to predation (notably by various species of Vaccucetus, or larger M. rufus) or, most frequently, simple starvation. There is also the prospect of coming within the gravity field of a planet and being incinerated in its atmosphere (especially in the case of specimens found within a ring system), falling into a star, or simply colliding with an asteroid at high velocity. One or two out of the swarm may have the luck to encounter an asteroid of reasonable size, in which case M. rufus promptly attaches itself to it with a specialized glue "foot" and proceeds to eat its way into the rock, taking on the color of its surroundings as it does so. This phase continues for centuries, as the organism slowly increases its mass and deepens its pit. When the latter is deep enough to contain the organism, it reabsorbs the glue from the "foot", reverses itself, and backs into the pit. It then gnaws out a circle around itself, until it has consumed all it can reach at which point it reverses itself again, and deepens the pit. Apparently this is repeated time and again over the lifetime of the organism.

Eventually, over the millenia, M. rufus can reach quite large sizes. Some have been reported to be as much as a kilometer or two in length. At this size they are extremely sluggish, and feed at intervals of up to ten or twenty years (est.), spending most of their time in a sort of quasi-torpor. Other vacuum living creatures have evolved to take advantage of what is now a particularly comfortable sort of cave, and over time an entire small ecology will collect in the gut of such a creature. There are both sessile and motile forms; as the slow digestive process produces a number of gasses, some have even developed wings. This ecology also follows a cycle of from ten to twenty years, during which time the population is built up until it reaches a maximum size, at which point it is believed that the mass in contact with the sides of its gut triggers the digestive system of the rockeater and causes it to close its mouth. Some motile forms leave the interior at this point if they are fast enough, the rest die and are absorbed by the host. Most produce spores or eggs capable of resisting the digestive process, from which the cycle is restarted. It is suspected that this event is what rouses the rockeater sufficiently to start nibbling on its surroundings.

Although it is primarily a lithovore, M. rufus appears to have a particular fondness for relatively pure metals. As a result, explorers who plan to visit an asteroid belt, jovian ring or large nebula should remember to coat their ship and excursion modules with a layer of synthefilm heavily impregnated with flurocarbons which both appear to interfere with attachment of the spat and to taste terrible to all stages of the organism. And be sure to check out all caves before entering.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
cabbitwocky
Sep. 27th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)
I must say, your name for it is much more creative than the more well-known "space slug." ;3
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